By M. E. Boole. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: H. Frowde. 1904.
CSP, identification: Haskell, Index to The Nation. See also: Burks, Bibliography; List of
Articles; MS 1489a (s) (draft).
Mrs. Boole's little books, taken as a whole, have a certain unity, but their value does not lie there; and what is true of the whole is true of any one. The present volume is decidedly the best of the series thus far. Information and salutary wisdom are to be drawn from it everywhere. The very dedication informs us of a fact interesting for the history of science in England, that Sir George Everest, on his return from India about 1829, inflamed the minds of Babbage and John F. W. Herschel with "certain ideas about the nature of man's relation to Unknown Truth which underlay all science in ancient Asia, and which he had learned from Brahman teachers." It would be curious to reperuse the books that Babbage, in 1830, and Herschel, in 1831, published about the general nature of science (a subject that had long been untouched in England) in the light of this information. Certainly, they two and Everest's son-in-law, Boole, are, as mathematicians, marked by their great predilection for what are called "symbolical" methods (that is, reasoning about operations as if they were things), to which English mathematicians generally, both before that day and since, have shown a marked aversion. The preface contains brief notices of ten writers whose thought pursued paths off the main lines of intellectual traffic. Two of them, Boole and Babbage, are famous; one, Nicolas Antoine Boulanger, once was so; Père Gratry is still read; and a fifth, Ramchundra, received aid from the British Government in his mathematical researches. The others, Thomas Wedgwood (who made a study of Genius), James Hinton (author of'Life in Nature,' etc.), Dr. Charles Winslow (author of 'Force and Nature'), "the late Dr. Wiltshire," and Benjamin Betts, never attracted much attention, but would seem to be worth some acquaintance.
The purpose of this little volume is to offer "suggestions as to means by which the scientific condition of mind can be induced" in children. The desirability of doing this is a topic distinctly excluded. In the first chapter, the scientific mind is portrayed, slightly, but with a rare fidelity to nature. "Scientific culture is the result of a steady, life-long habit of friendly and intimate, though reverent, intercourse with the Eternally Infinite Unknown." This might have been better expressed; yet, taken as it is, of many a man of science (especially of a passing generation) who might think the likeness execrable it is more true than he himself knows. "The typically scientific mind," says the authoress at the beginning of the chapter, "may be described as one which stands in a definite relation to As-Yet-Unknown Truth, and especially to that portion of As-Yet-Unknown which is just below the horizon of knowledge"; and she goes on to explain of what nature this relation is, laying much stress "upon the rhythmic alternation of attitude" of such a mind toward phenomena.